U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson blasted Gov. Dave Heineman today for accepting a $5 million grant from the federal government to set up insurance exchanges that are part of so-called “Obamacare” that the governor has opposed.
Nebraska is one of 13 states that received the federal grants as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul – which seven of those states are trying to get overturned in court.
“Why, in this time of constrained budgets, would the governor ask for $5 million more for an idea he opposes, refuses to implement and wants to repeal?” Nelson asked. “Perhaps he should send it back.”
During his weekly conference call with Nebraska reporters, Nelson said he found it odd that Heineman accepted $5 million from the feds to plan the state health care exchanges even while Nebraska is among the states challenging the constitutionality of the controversial health care law, which passed last year.
The exchanges are part of Obama’s plan to cover 30 million uninsured people by creating a one-stop online marketplace where private insurers will compete to provide health insurance to uninsured people and small businesses.
Nelson saw his popularity nosedive after providing the critical 60th vote to pass the health care law after negotiating the now-infamous Cornhusker Kickback, but he defended the merits of the health care overhaul again Wednesday. Nelson said if the law is overturned, a $57 billion “hidden tax” that insured people pay to cover “free riders” would continue, insurance companies would be allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and the so-called “doughnut hole” for seniors covered by Part D Medicare would re-open.
“I don’t know why the government would throw good money… after bad,” Nelson said. “The state already got $1 million for these activities and the governor continued to note his opposition to actually implementing the change.”
He attacked Heineman for accepting federal money on one hand, and slapping the feds with the other.
“At the very least, Nebraskans deserve to know what the state will do with the additional $5 million,” Nelson said. “It’s taxpayers’ money, not the state’s and until there’s a plan to put in place an exchange, I don’t believe it should be spent.”
On Friday, Heineman responded to Nelson by issuing a press statement saying Nelson “created this health care mess” by being the deciding vote for Obama’s overhaul.
“Senator Ben Nelson embarrassed the state with the Cornhusker Kickback. We will continue to work with Attorney General Bruning and 25 other states to fight the Obama-Nelson health care law that we believe is unconstitutional. In the meantime, to protect Nebraska from a federal takeover of our health care system, the state of Nebraska will continue to plan for a health insurance exchange, as required by federal law.”
He said Nelson should admit he made a mistake by voting for Obamacare and during his “final year in office,” he should introduce a bill to repeal the law.
Coincidentally, a poll conducted Nov. 20-21 by GOP polling firm Magellan strategies found Heineman leading Nelson in a hypothetical matchup by a whopping 51 percent to 33 percent. Heineman is not running for Nelson’s Senate seat, which is up for grabs next year.
Reported by Deena Winter, email@example.com
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